Coronavirus: Here’s what happened in the sports world on Saturday

The latest on how the coronavirus outbreak is affecting sports around the globe:

Spain set to finish soccer season in empty stadiums

Soccer matches and other sports events in Spain will take place in empty venues at least until the end of the summer, the mayor of Madrid said Saturday.

Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida told the Onda Cero radio station that the coronavirus pandemic likely “won’t be under control” by then for events with big crowds to resume normally.

“In the spring and summer there won’t be any events with crowds in Spain, and possibly not in the fall either,” Martinez-Almeida said. “Obviously the situation will not be fully under control. We will have to change our habits and behaviours even after being allowed to go back on to the streets.”

Spain has been one of the hardest-hit countries with more than 190,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, only behind the United States. More than 20,000 have died in the European nation.

The Spanish league is not expecting to resume at least until the end of May and president Javier Tebas has said he expects to play the first few games in empty stadiums.

The soccer federation said this week that if the league can’t resume it will use the current standings to decide the four clubs to play in the Champions League, which would mean giving the spots to Barcelona, Real Madrid, Sevilla and Real Sociedad.

Serena Williams’ coach forms independent tennis league

Serena Williams’ coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, says he is starting an independent tennis league to have professionals play matches without spectators starting in May at his academy in Nice, France.

The ATP and WTA professional tours have been on hold since March because of the coronavirus pandemic and are suspended at least until mid-July.

Mouratoglou announced his venture Saturday, calling it the Ultimate Tennis Showdown or UTS.

He says the plan is to live stream 10 matches per weekend for five weekends in May and June.

The competition is slated to start May 16. That is when 10th-ranked David Goffin of Belgium, a three-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist, is scheduled to face 103rd-ranked Alexei Popyrin of Australia, whose father is the co-founder of the UTS.

Date for EPL return unclear, West Ham CEO says

West Ham chief executive Karren Brady believes the timescale for an English Premier League return is no clearer than when the coronavirus lockdown started almost a month ago.

The EPL stated after talks with the 20 clubs on Friday that its objective remains to complete the season but “at this stage all dates are tentative while the impact of Covid-19 develops.”

Brady feels that complex questions still need to be answered over player training, the presence of police at matches, virus testing, hygiene and medical protocols.

Writing in her column in the UK newspaper The Sun, she said: “Players will have been able to retain some physical fitness at home. But if social-distancing rules are still in place, physical match-play training will not be allowed — you can’t tackle from two meters away. So, how match-fit will players be if the season commences, as we all hope it will, by mid-June?

Renowned junior golf tourney in San Diego cancelled

The San Diego Junior Golf Association has cancelled the 53rd annual IMG Academy Junior World Championships set for July 4-10 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The event annually attracts more than 1,250 golfers from more than 50 countries to Torrey Pines and other San Diego golf courses

Many of PGA and LPGA players faced their initial international competition at the Junior Worlds. Tiger Woods was a six-time winner. Other champions included Lorena Ochoa, Amy Alcott, Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson, Craig Stadler, Corey Pavin, John Cook, Billy Mayfair, Anthony Kim and Jason Day.

The tournament has long been known as a recruiting haven for college coaches.

India plans domestic tennis circuit for financially strapped players

India plans to launch a domestic tennis circuit from July to support its players who are struggling financially during the sport’s shutdown due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, the country’s tennis body said on Saturday.

The tennis season was halted in early March due to the pandemic, leaving players in the lower tiers who depend solely on tournament winnings without the chance to earn a living.

AITA said it had come up with an intermediate plan with the support of the country’s government to reduce some of the pain for the lower-level professionals.

India is currently in lockdown till May 3 and it was assumed that travel restrictions would be lifted in the next two months, the AITA said.

“This circuit will be aimed at benefiting our tennis players across the country since the pandemic has adversely affected their livelihood as well as their overall training and preparedness,” AITA said in a statement.

The men’s ATP Tour and the WTA, which runs the women’s circuit, suspended all tournaments until mid-July after countries started locking down borders to contain the spread of the flu-like virus which has infected over two million people.

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